Defiance is a fantastic film, one that reaps the benefits of historical accuracy to the advantage of professional filmmaking. Since The Last Samurai, Edward Zwick has become a misunderstood and unappreciated director. How this film received mixed reviews is beyond me.
The first thirty minutes of Defiance is a masterpiece. It introduces the Bielski brothers, a Jewish family whose parents were killed by the driving Nazi regime during World War II. Following moments of revenge and emotional lapses, the brothers are forced into the Belarusian Forests, where they join Russian resistance fighters and endeavor to build a village in order to protect themselves and thousands of other Jewish survivors. Tuvia (Daniel Craig in top form) the eldes of the brothers, Zus (an electrifying Liev Schreiber), and Asael (Jamie Bell) use their strong bond for one another to push their survival towards a distant and optimistic end.
Zwick never takes us out of the woods and keeps with the survivors on the ground. Now this doesn't mean the film itself is flat by any means. We are trapped with the characters on a level of isolation, trying to break the surrounding sense of evil. The Nazi's come from the outside in, viciously attacking the Jew's without warning. You will feel for ever death and weep for every loss. Defiance translates to the screen as a story of community and entangled loyalty that has echoed throughout world history.
The film demands your attention to the details of cultural interactions as humans face the verge of unprecedented extinction. It flirts with Hollywood antics (the final battle scene feels a bit staged) but it never reduces itself to formula. Zwick pushes entertainment into an incredible story, creating a film of continuous praise that it has yet to receive.